New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn McKoy announced that a Hudson County man has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud for his role in an automobile “give up” scam.
According to Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Israel Rivera, 34, of Jersey City, Hudson County, pleaded guilty before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Vasquez to an Accusation filed by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, charging him with insurance fraud (3rd degree). When sentenced on Jan. 14, Rivera faces up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, the defendant faces civil insurance fraud fines of $5,000 pursuant to the civil Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.
At the Nov. 8 guilty plea hearing, Rivera reportedly admitted that, in July 2003, he falsely reported to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company that his 2001 Honda Civic had been stolen. He subsequently submitted an automobile insurance theft claim in the amount of $10,398. The insurance claim was paid by Liberty Mutual to satisfy the car loan and towing and storage charges.
An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Rivera’s car was found burning in Philadelphia prior to the date he reported to Liberty Mutual he last saw the Honda in Jersey City. Liberty Mutual became suspicious of the claim and referred it to the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. As a result of his guilty plea, the Court will require Rivera to make restitution by reimbursing and repaying Liberty Mutual in full for the expenditures.
Rivera was charged pursuant to the new Insurance Fraud statute. The Insurance Fraud statute became effective on June 9, 2003 and was passed to “enable more efficient prosecution of criminally culpable persons who knowingly commit or assist, or conspire with others in committing fraud against insurance companies.”
Among other changes, the statute enables prosecutors to seek increased criminal penalties for submitting fraudulent insurance claims and for submitting fraudulent insurance applications to insurance companies than could be obtained under prior law. In addition to the fact that substantial jail penalties can be imposed in many more cases, cases that may have previously been addressed by the imposition of civil insurance fraud fines can be charged as a crime of the third degree.
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